Continuity of Care

couple holding ultrasound picture
pregnant women does yoga
parent holding newborn's hand

The term ‘continuity of care’ is getting used more and more when it comes to general patient care, and with good reason. But there are actually two terms that regularly get interchanged – continuity of care and continuity of carer. Let’s compare the two and see how they apply to you.

Continuity of care refers to the seamless sharing of information between relevant interprofessional collaborative team members who support you with a specific health issue. This type of care should be standard for any medical needs you have. Continuity of carer is when you make appointments with the same, trusted health care provider, who continuously sees you throughout your treatment. Both forms are important but continuity of carer is the one generally referred to when this term is used because it has been shown to provide better medical outcomes for patients.

In the maternity system, continuity of carer is only available in some models of care. This is important to consider when choosing your primary care provider as some offer complete continuity while others can only offer fragmented care. Generally, care providers who offer higher levels of continuity, have better physical and mental outcomes for mothers and babies.

Midwifery-led continuity of care’ currently meets the term ‘continuity of carermost closely. This systematic review found that ‘midwifery continuity of care’ results in fewer instrumental births, fewer preterm births, a smaller risk of stillbirth/neonatal loss and a higher chance of having care from a midwife they already know, when compared to other models of care. The World Health Organisation uses this study as a reference for recommending midwifery-led care in pregnancy.

Below you can find a table that shows the different levels of continuity of carer that maternity care providers generally offer. We also recommend you take a look out our models of care page, to help you decide which care provider and birth place combination suits you best.

Antenatal Labour & Birth Postpartum

Private Midwife

Complete continuity with your chosen midwife
Labour and birth with your chosen midwife* and a second (known) midwife
Continuity with your chosen midwife for up to 6 weeks

Private Obstetrician

Continuity with your obstetrician (and sometimes midwives)
Labour care with midwives (may be un/known), Birth with your chosen obstetrician^
Midwives (you have likely met)

Midwifery Group Practise (MGP)

Majority of care provided by your primary midwife (remaining care with others in the team)
Care by primary midwife if s/he is available** and a second midwife
Care may be from primary midwife or others in the team

GP Shared Care (public)

Majority of antenatal care with your GP, some appointments at the hospital with an unknown midwife
Unknown midwives and doctors for labour/birth
Different midwives postnatally Same GP care after birth

Public Obstetrician

May have continuity with obstetrician
Likely unknown midwives for labour/birth. Likely unknown doctor/s
Different/unknown midwives postnatally

Clinic Midwives (public)

Likely a different midwife at each appointment
Likely unknown midwives and doctors for labour/birth
Different/unknown midwives postnatally

* This cannot be 100% guaranteed as your private midwife may not be available due to attending another birth. Your care will be provided by a known colleague in this rare situation.

^ This cannot be 100% guaranteed as your private obstetrician may not be available due to attending another birth/scheduled holiday period. Your care will be provided by a colleague in this rare situation.

**MGP midwives are rostered by the hospital. If you birth on a day that your primary midwife is not working, another midwife from the team will provide your birth care.

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